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Lajes families embark on magical Polar Express ride
Staff Sgt. Paul Couch, 65th Air Base Wing command chief executive, gives gifts to Lajes and Portuguese children as Santa Claus Dec. 8. More than 300 family members watched "The Polar Express" movie, enjoyed a simulated train ride through a winter wonderland and ended the night with a holiday tree lighting ceremony on Lajes. This was the kickoff to a series of December holiday events on Lajes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe)
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Lajes families embark on magical Polar Express ride

Posted 12/11/2012   Updated 12/13/2012 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe
65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

12/11/2012 - LAJES FIELD, Azores -- More than 300 family members experienced the joy of the Polar Express at Lajes Dec. 8.

Dressed comfortably in pajamas, children and adults filled the seats of the Lajes theater to view the holiday movie "The Polar Express" produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., and inspired by the award winning book by Chris Van Allsburg.

A live action musical number opened the festivities as Team Lajes joined together for a night of fun.

At the conclusion of the film, everyone took out their golden roundtrip tickets to board The Polar Express train, simulated by two holiday decorated buses, for an adventure through Winter Wonderland in the Nascer do Sol housing area.

"We created a winter wonderland with live action Christmas displays as well as had the area lit up with holiday lights," said Master Sgt. Greg Lee, 65th Medical Support Squadron, mastermind of the Lajes Polar Express.

"I'd done it before in Boston, Mass., several years ago, and I thought if there'd be any place we could do it, it would be Lajes just because of the community we have here," he said. "So I dreamed the whole thing up, pitched it to the wing leadership, and they fell in love with the idea."

At their last stop, the families disembarked the train for a holiday tree lighting ceremony complete with holiday entertainment, caroling, hot chocolate and cookies served for their enjoyment.

Toward the end of the night, a special guest made his grand entrance on a fire truck with lights and sirens.

Santa Claus came to town.

Children had the opportunity to receive gifts and take photos on Santa's lap before heading home for the night.

A special invitation was sent to the Portuguese local national Girl Scouts as well as a local orphanage.

As the movie played in the base theater for the American children, local national children viewed a special showing in Portuguese at the Community Activities Center here.

"Community relations are really important, especially around Christmas time," said Lee. "Whether you're a fan of Christmas or not, it's about the spirit of giving. It's about reaching out and helping others and including them in your festivities, and we're really proud and glad to have them as part of this experience."

Cidalia Dia, Portuguese local national leader of the Portuguese Girl Scouts, visited Lajes for the Polar Express experience and said the Portuguese children were very excited to be a part of the event.

"I think the most important thing is the friendship the kids make with each other," Dias said. "They can learn about American culture, and the American children can learn about the Portuguese culture. All the activities we do together are awesome for the kids."

Maria David, wife of Tech. Sgt. Jason David, American Forces Network-Lajes, and overseas committee chair of the American Girl Scouts, said she invited the local national scouts to join in on the festivities.

"As Girl Scouts, we've traditionally had good working relationships together," said David. "We try to include them in every activity we can and they do the same for us so the girls get a little of the local culture. It's a good learning experience. It helps them to see things from a different perspective."

The Polar Express served as the kick-off for a series of events scheduled to celebrate the holidays throughout the month of December. For a list of December holiday events at Lajes, vist the Lajes website at

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